Brace yourself for this shocking news: More guns have not solved the problem of gun violence. More than 19,000 people were victims of gun homicide in 2020, up 34% from 2019 — and a 75% increase over the course of the previous decade. Six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings occurred in the past decade. Mass shootings are on the rise, and they have been for decades.
The trends are clear, the evidence is solid, the solution is obvious, but we continue to do nothing. This is unsurprising — the debate over gun control effectively ended once we collectively decided it was fine for first-graders to be murdered at school — but that doesn’t make it less infuriating. Only in America can leaders be presented with such a compelling case for change and then deny it exists.
The Big Takeaway
Eventually, one hopes, denial will become impossible. It’s hard to imagine, for example, parroting the myth of the “good guy with a gun” after last year’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where police waited more than an hour to enter the classroom where a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle killed 19 children and two teachers. The reason? The rifle, according to a Texas Tribune review of police body cameras, emergency communications and previously unreleased interviews.
“We weren’t equipped to make entry into that room without several casualties,” Uvalde Police Department Detective Louis Landry told investigators. “Once we found out it was a rifle he was using, it was a different game plan we would have had to come up with. It wasn’t just going in guns blazing, the Old West style, and take him out.”
Countless law enforcement officers had the same concerns. One police officer said that the AR-15 left officials with “no choice but to wait.” Another said the shooter “would have killed” anyone who attempted to breach the door. Uvalde school district Police Chief Pete Arredondo told investigators that “the firepower [the shooter] had” led him to evacuate the school instead of entering the classroom.
“The preservation of life, everything around [the gunman], was a priority,” said Arredondo, who was fired in August for his role in the botched response.
Look, there’s plenty of reasons to be afraid of the AR-15. It was designed in the late 1950s to help soldiers carry more ammo by using smaller-caliber bullets that fired at higher speeds. Those high-energy bullets twist and turn as they decelerate through flesh, causing horrific damage to the human body. A declassified 1962 Department of Defense report detailing the rifle’s performance in the Vietnam war described a firefight with Viet Cong at a range of 50 meters, noting that “one man was shot in the head; it looked like it exploded. A second man was hit in the chest; his back was one big hole.”
But the deliberation in Uvalde was at odds with mass shooting protocols, which prioritize stopping the attacker, regardless of his choice of weapon. Still, it’s not an outlier. Officers have repeatedly hesitated to confront gunmen armed with AR-15 rifles, including during mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. In Uvalde, police wavered even knowing that the shooter was an 18-year-old amateur. Of course, the shooter wasn’t actually the adversary, according to advocates. Police knew they’d really be battling the rifle.
“(Police) knew the monster behind the door was not the kid. It’s the rifle the kid is holding,” said Jesse Rizo, whose 9-year-old niece Jackie Cazares was killed in the shooting. “It’s the freaking AR that they’re afraid of. … Their training doesn’t say, ‘sit back and wait.’ ”
You can probably guess what comes next: Nothing. Lawmakers in Texas have so far resisted calls to enact gun control measures, like raising the age limit to purchase semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15. (This, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, would be unconstitutional.) One Republican state senator said the weapon wasn’t the issue in Uvalde — it was the delay among law enforcement officers. (You know, the ones who waited to breach the classroom because they were afraid of the AR-15.)
“This man had enough time to do it with his hands or a baseball bat, and so it’s not the gun,” state Sen. Bob Hall said in a hearing one month after the shooting. “It’s the person.” (Just so we’re clear: It’s the gun.)
Even in states where lawmakers embrace gun-control measures, gun control isn’t a given. The latest example is New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy in December signed into law a sweeping gun bill that faced immediate legal challenges from pro-gun groups. Lawmakers had rushed to approve the measure after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a concealed carry law in New York that required gun owners to prove a need to carry weapons outside of their homes, per the New Jersey Monitor.
The bill overhauled New Jersey’s concealed carry law by increasing permit fees, banning guns in “sensitive places” like airports and parks, and requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance for accidents, among other things. The lawsuit, filed by gun-rights advocates in December, argued that the law was unconstitutional, saying it prevented gun owners from carrying their firearms in places (churches, supermarkets) where it had previously been legal to do so.
“For example, because Mr. Koons regularly meets for breakfast at restaurants that occasionally have liquor licenses, he now leaves his firearm at home,” per court documents.
A federal judge sided with the gun groups in January, temporarily lifting the ban on guns in casinos, parks, public libraries, museums, entertainment facilities, vehicles, on beaches and on private property where the owner does not give consent. Those provisions deprived plaintiffs of their “Second Amendment rights” and constituted “irreparable injury,” wrote U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb, a George W. Bush appointee. “Neither the state nor the public has an interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws.”
But this was not enough of a win for the gun-hungry plaintiffs, who asked Bumb on Friday to block enforcement of the entire law for the duration of their court battle. (Bumb, who seemed equally exasperated with attorneys on both sides, declined.) It also did little to placate the state’s less-litigious gun owners, who told the Monitor that it’s still way too hard to carry their guns in public.
The biggest issue appears to be a backlog of applications and a weirdly complex permitting system, neither of which appear to be a priority for Democratic lawmakers, according to Scott Bach, executive director of the New Jersey Pistol and Rifle Association.
“It’s a way to buy themselves more time and further restrict the rights of people,” he said.
The application backlog is linked to a slate of judicial vacancies, which have slowed the rate of court approval for permit requests submitted before Dec. 22. The delay has affected at least one lawmaker, who applied for his permit in early October but wasn’t approved until late January. In an unfortunate sort of irony, that lawmaker was state Sen. Ed Durr, a Republican who only got into politics because he was once denied a concealed carry permit.
“There’s so many people applying, and there’s only so many people who can handle the applications, at this point, but it’s just procedural — checking you’re qualified, checking your background check, making sure that you took the class — then issuing the permit,” he said. “I guess it’s a bit overwhelming.”
Durr thinks the delay is unacceptable, but at least he got through it and can finally carry a gun while he runs errands and walks the dog.
“I feel like I have an equalizer to anything. I don’t feel as vulnerable as I once did,” Durr said. “I’m happy now that I’m through the process, and I’m able to exercise my rights.”
Equalizers to other things: Firearm safety bill gets rare hearing in GOP-controlled Georgia Legislature … (Michigan) In ‘history-making’ votes, Democratic-led Senate passes gun reform legislation … Nebraska students demand more gun reform five years after national school walkouts … (North Carolina) Cooper launches Office of Violence Prevention as Republicans send gun reform bill to his desk … Oregon lawmakers propose measures to stem gun violence, stem ‘ghost guns’ … How a 2019 vote on Virginia’s red flag law is shaking up a GOP primary in 2023
State of Our Democracy
Five Republican-led states have announced plans to exit an interstate voter database that was created by a Republican to cut down on fraud, saying the system is part of a liberal plot to rig elections. The exodus is entirely informed by election denier conspiracy theories, which claim that the Election Registration Information Center, or ERIC — a data clearinghouse that helps states manage their voter rolls — is a secret registration vehicle for Democrats funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, per Colorado Newsline.
To state the (hopefully) obvious: None of this is true. For starters, Democrats would never be organized enough to pull this off — but even if they were, it wouldn’t work. ERIC doesn’t link to states’ voter registration systems, which means members (3o, for now) are always in control of their own voter rolls. The organization simply allows them to share data about voters and motor vehicle registrations, which is compiled with federal death and change-of-address data to corroborate the number of active voters in a given state.
The goal of all of the data-sharing is to make voter rolls more accurate — not to swing them toward a particular political party. Because of that, states that exit the partnership are likely to have less accurate voter rolls, which hampers their ability to suss out the rare instance of election fraud, like double voting. They’re also likely to hit more snags during elections, like longer voting lines and delays in ballot counting — exactly the type of thing that election deniers tend to point to as evidence of fraud.
In other words: The conspiracy informs itself. The call is coming from inside the house. My exhaustion knows no bounds.
“ERIC has helped over 30 states correct 35 million records of voters who had moved, cleaned 1 million duplicate records and removed over 500,000 dead voters from voter lists,” David Becker, director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research and an outgoing ERIC board member, said on Twitter. “Attacks on ERIC are part of a larger campaign to weaken democracy, as election officials continue to face threats and harassment.”
Fraud for fraud: (Florida) DeSantis coy on Trump extradition; can’t speak to ‘paying hush money to a porn star’ … Coalition of Kansas organizations strives to entice candidates for city, county, school board … Legislature approves ‘random’ venue changes for Kentuckians challenging state laws, decisions … Five Nebraskans honored by Civic Nebraska for helping to build a robust democracy … Philly students tell mayoral hopefuls: ‘Our vote matters’ … (Tennessee) Senate Republicans to hold a vote of no confidence in Lt. Gov. McNally today
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
Vaccine manufacturers are ready to whip up hundreds of millions of bird flu shots for humans should a new strain of avian flu start infecting humans. I think this was meant to be reassuring, but I can’t say for sure because I’m too busy dealing with my newfound anxiety about a nonexistent strain of bird flu.
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